Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
AUGUST 29, 2017
Immunotherapy, sometimes called Biologic Therapy, is a relatively new form of cancer treatment. It involves boosting the body's natural immune system in the hopes of killing off cancer cells. There is clearly a long way to go before this trend is widely available and helpful, but doctors and researchers are excited and hopeful about the potential value. One benefit for patients is that there generally are far fewer side effects than with traditional chemotherapy.
This is a brief introduction to two excellent fact sheets from CancerNet. The first is a description of Immunotherapy and its uses. The second is what a patient needs to know about the experience of this treatment.
Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is a type of cancer treatment that boosts the body's natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses substances made by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function. Immunotherapy may work in these ways:
Stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells
Stopping cancer from spreading to other parts of the body
Helping the immune system work better at destroying cancer cells
There are several types of immunotherapy, including:
Oncolytic virus therapy
And here is the second:
What It's Like Taking Immunotherapy to Treat Cancer
In the movie As Good as It Gets, Melvin (Jack Nicholson) accuses Carol (Helen Hunt) of evicting him from his life. That’s how it felt when I first heard that I was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. It was May 2016, and my wife, Elvira, and I were suddenly evicted from our lives and thrown into a strange new world filled not only with doctors, nurses, and blood draws, but also with confusion and fear.
Cancer was suddenly in control of our lives. It didn’t help when we saw the survival rates for melanoma when it had spread to organs throughout one’s body, as mine had. We had more scans, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and a trip to the cancer center for a second opinion while the aggressive cancer continued to ravage my body and we dealt with paperwork and insurance claims.